Georgia Bulldogs flying high after record-setting NFL draft

Former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean (left) and defensive back Lewis Cine show their rings to each other during the National Championship ring ceremony April 16 in Athens. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean (left) and defensive back Lewis Cine show their rings to each other during the National Championship ring ceremony April 16 in Athens. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

ATHENS — Let’s take one more look at the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 NFL draft.

The Bulldogs, obviously, had an unbelievable week in Las Vegas. The draft ended up being a three-day unpaid promotion for coach Kirby Smart’s program. That certainly will manifest itself in recruiting dividends. How could it not after what could be described only as “the Year of the Dawg” that included a national championship?

But it also underscores the work that must be done by UGA’s staff in 2022, particularly on defense. Of the 15 Georgia players drafted – an NFL record in the era of the seven-round draft – nine of them played on defense. The first five off the board for the Bulldogs were defenders, all in the first round, another NFL record.

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A closer look reveals that those players made up the middle of the Bulldogs’ defense. In all sports, it’s critical to be strong up the middle. Georgia definitely was, as the draft illustrated. You’re talking about the Dogs’ starting three defensive linemen, their three-man rotation at middle linebacker and an all-star free safety.

This year, there will be new starters at all those spots. And while each replacement comes with similar recruiting credentials, what will be missing is the depth of experience Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Devonte Wyatt, Quay Walker, Lewis Cine and Channing Tindall brought to that area of the field.

As for the recruiting pedigree of the drafted Dogs, it was pretty strong overall. The average prospect rating of the 15 Georgia players selected was 4 ¼ stars on a 5-star scale. Six of the draftees carried 5-star ratings coming out of high school. Six were 4-star prospects, and three were 3-star prospects.

According to the 247Sports prospect composite, the average national ranking of the Bulldogs selected was 188.4. The highest-rated individual was Wyatt at 6. Zamir White (9) and Jamaree Salyer (10) were the only other top 10-rated players.

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The lowest-rated was, of course, punter Jake Camarda at No. 1,362. However, he was the first UGA punter ever to be drafted, and the fourth round is exceptionally high for a punter. He wasn’t the first punter to go, however. Penn State’s Jordan Stout went three picks earlier to the Baltimore Ravens.

The second-lowest-rated recruit was Davis, who was the 424th-best prospect, per 247′s composite. As it was, he was Georgia’s second-highest draftee this year and left as one of the Bulldogs’ most decorated defensive linemen of all time.

One of the most amazing aspects of Georgia’s presence in the 2022 draft is it could have been even greater. At one point last season, outside linebacker Adam Anderson projected as a first-round draft pick. However, the senior from Rome is currently under indictment on rape charges in Athens-Clarke County and was not selected.

Also, fellow outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson was selected in the first round with the 26th pick by the New York Jets. Of course, Johnson transferred to Florida State before last season and earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior for the Seminoles. We’ll never know if Johnson would have commanded a similar draft position had he remained with the Bulldogs. Odds are, though, he’d be wearing a championship ring.

Some of the oddities in the draft included Dean, who was invited to Las Vegas, lasting until third round. Adding to the frustration was the hometown Atlanta Falcons choosing a linebacker from Montana State (Troy Andersen) over Dean in the second round. The story time tells on this will be intriguing to follow.

The offensive captain Salyer, who starred at tackle and guard for the Bulldogs, getting passed over by dozens of offensive linemen – including his teammate Justin Shaffer – was perplexing. Likewise, it would seem a steal for the Rams to get cornerback Derion Kendrick with the 212th pick. Sure, he came to UGA with a little baggage. But he’s also a guy who started in the last four College Football Playoffs and left college with two national championship rings.

The NFL draft remains as fascinating and perplexing as ever. But you’ll hear no complaints from the Bulldogs.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS IN NFL DRAFT

1 – DE Travon Walker, Jaguars

13 – DT Jordan Davis, Eagles

22 – LB Quay Walker, Packers

28 – DT Devonte Wyatt, Packers

32 – FS Lewis Cine, Vikings

52 – WR George Pickens, Steelers

63 – RB James Cook, Bills

83 – LB Nakobe Dean, Eagles

102 – LB Channing Tindall, Dolphins

122 – RB Zamir White, Raiders

133 – P Jake Camarda, Buccaneers

190 – OG Justin Shaffer, Falcons

195 – OG Jamaree Salyer, Chargers

212 – CB Derion Kendrick, Rams

213 – TE John FitzPatrick, Falcons

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